Dr. John Carlson is the latest edition to the Economics and Management Department’s tenure-track faculty and has been teaching at Albion for the last two years. He came to Albion in 2011 to replace retiring, long-time accounting professor, Gaylord Smith.
Carlson received his Ph.D. in Accounting from the University of Cincinnati in 2012, the same place he earned his M.B.A. in Marketing and Finance in 1999. He holds two professional certifications, a C.P.A. (Certified Public Accountant) and a C.M.A. (Chartered Management Accountant). His research focuses on the effects of differences in corporate accounting practices and how they impact the movement of companies’ stock prices.
At age 56 and with his wife retired, Carlson came to academia later than most.
“I didn’t realize I wanted to be a professor until my sons started to grow up, and I liked hanging out with their friends over the years through sports and school and the like,” Carlson said. “Teaching college is a surrogate way of hanging out with my sons and their friends now that they’ve grown up and moved away.”
With stereotypes of being “bean-counters” and having horn-rimmed glasses, it’s hard to believe an accountant would become an easy going college professor to relive the great times he had with his boys, but not if you know Carlson. It’s apparent in the way he engages his students that he is truly a kid at heart. He has nothing but enthusiasm about the people around him and the accounting he is teaching.
Carlson’s energy and excitement are visible even when just passing his office given the number of students sitting around his desk, at tables in the hall and on the floor in the hallway. Carlson’s voice echoes above the rest, laughing, instructing and motivating his students to do their best on the latest project he assigned.
Carlson’s unique sense of humor and teaching style combine to help his students tie together the accounting principles they learn over the semester. The Dude Project, as it is called, is a set of books Carlson makes his introductory accounting students in Accounting 211 complete for Jeff Lebowski, the fictional protagonist in the 1999 cult classic comedy “The Big Lebowski.”
Beyond his unique teaching style, Carlson has a unique history and career path that led him to his current position. Rather than playing the sports he says he enjoyed watching his sons and their friends play, he was a long-haired trumpet player in his high school’s band. With being brought up on The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Motown, this was a passion he intended to follow into college at Ball State University. This path quickly changed.
“I thought I was going to be a horn player in a rock band because I thought that was the cool thing to do if you played the trumpet with long hair,” Carlson said. “My dad thought I should have an alternative plan, and I eventually ended up being an accounting major. And I became a C.P.A. before I knew it.”
Carlson then went on to be involved in corporate finance as a controller. This was a career he held for 20 years until he found a new calling at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO). He brought his passion for music and his business acumen together to head business development operations for the symphony.
While working at the CSO he decided he wanted to become a college professor. After receiving his M.B.A. to broaden his horizons beyond accounting, he decided on a whim to teach as an adjunct instructor at the University of Cincinnati at night. This move eventually led him to his Ph.D. program and then to Albion College.
Since starting at Albion in the Fall of 2012, Carlson has been very active in the college community. He currently is teaching accounting and tax classes as well as advising the Accounting Society. Beyond academics, he is associated with the VITA tax program, which offers free tax preparation by students to the community of Albion, and Albion College’s 2012 American Institute of CPA’s (AICPA) National Accounting Competition Team. Under Carlson’s direction, the team took second in the nation during its inaugural year.
Having seen the advantages of a small, liberal arts school while his son attended The College of Wooster, Carlson says he is glad he chose Albion College over medium-sized schools like Central Michigan University or even his alma mater of Ball State, and hasn’t regretted the decision yet.